Overlapping Evidence-Based Practices Using Growth Mindset, Trauma-Informed, and Inclusive Teaching

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In Spring 2022 we had talks from three nationally recognized speakers on the following topics: inclusive teaching, promoting growth mindset, and trauma-informed education. Here are the descriptions of and links to each talk.

  • Growth Mindset: As Dr. Angie Bauer argued, we promote learning and resilience and reduce equity gaps when instructors and students embrace the idea that abilities can be changed and developed (Yeager & Dweck, 2020).
  • Inclusive Teaching: Dr. Addy’s IDI keynote shared more about inclusive teaching as “being responsive to the diversity our class and designing learning environments that include all of our students” (Addy, 2021).
  • Trauma-Informed Education: Dr. Mays Imad asserted that learning is promoted through class environments characterized by security or predictability, transparent communication, peer support, shared decisions, promoting student strengths, recognizing diversity and identity, and a sense of purpose (Imad, 2020).

Applying all three approaches to your work may seem daunting, but there are common, evidence-based teaching strategies that achieve all at once. We list them below, along with how they “fit” each category and linked resources.

Pre-Semester or Early in the Semester

Use positive, student-centered syllabus language.

Gather info to learn about students & build rapport.

Align learning outcomes with what you teach & assess.

  • Growth mindset: Provides outcomes clearly; students can self-assess growth 
  • Inclusive: Sets transparent goals for all and links assessment to them 
  • Trauma-informed: Promotes security with transparent communication 
  • Tools & ideas:

Discuss growth mindset and its impacts with students.

During the Semester

Publish rubrics in advance and use them for grading.

Use active and problem-based learning.

Collect and respond to exam wrapper or mid-term feedback.

  • Growth mindset: Models growth mindset as you show openness to change. 
  • Inclusive: Respects all student voices and promotes reflection 
  • Trauma-informed: Promotes reflection on strengths and shared decisions 
  • Tools & ideas:

Use multiple methods of assessment.

Late in Semester or Post-Semester

Consider authentic assessments vs. “final exams."


Collect and reflect upon student feedback.

Presentation Recording: Teaching with Zoom (Aug. 24, 2021)

Resources from This Presentation

Training & Support



Collaborative Learning Assignments

A lot of students shudder at the thought of group assignments, and with good reason. A poorly-designed group assignment can be painful for the students involved and for the instructor. That being said, well-designed and properly scaffolded group activities have numerous positive effects on student learning. In a quality collaborative learning activity, students develop a deeper student understanding of course content as they learn from and teach their peers. Additionally, these activities can foster a sense of community between students and make academic dishonesty much less likely, as the group setting adds a built-in network of accountability. In terms of academic rigor, group assignments don’t necessarily need to be easier than individual exercises, but students shouldn’t be unequally yoked when they work collaboratively. One way to circumvent this issue is to have teams develop a group charter, like this example group charter (Word document) created by Kate Farley (UWGB) in which students decide on their roles and commitments before beginning a project.

UW-Extension has created a helpful guide that provides more detailed suggestions on how to design group activities, which are summarized below:

  1. Provide purpose. Make sure students know why they are doing the project and why it’s important that they work in groups.
  2. Provide support. Make sure students have the tools they need (technological and otherwise) to complete the project.
  3. Set ground rules with clearly defined milestones and timelines. If you allow students to create the ground rules and milestones for their own group, they are more likely to take ownership of the project and ensure the schedule is doable for them.
  4. Provide opportunities for peer and self-evaluation: Evaluation and reflection helps students effectively hold themselves and each other accountable for the results of their collaboration.

If you’re familiar with the concept these features might sound an awful lot like the teaching with transparency framework. If that concept is unfamiliar to you, you can learn more about it here.

Academic Excellence and Student Expectations

How do you:

  • Create a course load that is challenging but manageable for students?
  • Develop assignments that are engaging and meet the complex needs of the course and modality?
  • Communicate expectations to students on workload, attendance, and participation?
  • Discouraging academic dishonesty, particularly in online settings?

Unfortunately, there are no clear-cut answers, but this page tries to address the central theme to all these questions: academic excellence and student expectations. As you explore the concepts of academic excellence and student expectations, you will find that they are intrinsically linked to the design of course materials and assessments.

Defining Academic Excellence

Our use of the term “Academic Excellence” is informed by the three elements of culturally relevant pedagogy: academic success, cultural competence, and sociopolitical consciousness (Ladson-Billings, 1995; Ayers et al., 2008). Since Dr. Ladson-Billings first introduced this framework in 1995, many studies have extended it, creating shifting and alternative interpretations (Ladson-Billings, 2014). Our interpretation necessarily starts with Ladson-Billings, but is influenced by conversations with practitioners. When instructors promote academic success, they articulate high standards for student learning and discuss how they combine transparency of expectations with practices, approaches, and resources that support student learning. Academic excellence includes, but is not limited to, academic integrity and academic rigor, balanced with compassionate flexibility and resources to support student success. We will break down academic excellence into these three parts and refer to them as such throughout this resources page.

Academic Integrity

The Center for Teaching & Learning at UC Berkely concedes that there is no single perfect definition for academic integrity, but that it generally “entails honesty, responsibility, and openness to both scholarship and scholarly activity”. Fostering academic integrity within your students has its challenges, but it can be handled in a preventative and even positive way. In our fall panel on academic integrity, one of the top suggestions by our panelists was to develop assignments and assessments that require analysis, interpretation, and application of learned information, rather than just rote memorization and recall.

You will find that your personal definition of academic integrity might differ from one in a different discipline, or even from another instructor within your own department. Therefore, it is important to also lay out clear, specific expectations for students at the beginning of the semester on what you consider to be plagiarism, cheating, academic dishonesty, and academic misconduct. Lastly, disclose to your students any any-cheating technologies you plan on using, such as Turnitin, and for what purpose(s) you chose to use them. Academic integrity starts with instructor transparency.

Academic Rigor

Designing quality, substantive assignments and assessments is also related to the idea of academic rigor. Academic rigor is sometimes heavily connotated with the quantity of work assigned in a course when in reality it can also refer to the quality of assignments and assessments. Cathy Davidson, professor at CUNY, addresses this important distinction in an opinion piece for Inside Higher Ed and argues that our focus should shift away from the number of exercises or quizzes our course includes and that we should instead “reconsider the meaning, scope, and purpose of the work we do as well as the work we assign”.

Compassionate Flexibility

Maintaining a high standard for academic integrity and academic rigor usually leads to the highest rate of student success when it is tempered with a degree of compassionate flexibility on the part of the instructor. Compassionate flexibility for our students is particularly crucial now with the added complications of financial need, lack of access to the necessary technology, family responsibilities, and health issues (physical or mental), just to name a few. In one qualitative case study of 11 engineering students during the COVID-19 pandemic, it was found that students performed better when faculty “showed compassion and flexibility by adjusting the curriculum and assessment and effectively communicating with students”. To the greatest extreme, compassionate flexibility by an instructor can be the difference between a student surviving—and eventually thriving—in school or dropping out.

Complete flexibility can also be difficult for students to navigate. Unless you’re able to consistently check on their progress, students may find themselves at the end of the semester with many assessments left to complete, and, without the benefit of feedback. Consider what flexibility looks like within your courses, and articulate this transparently to students.

Defining Student Expectations

Communication is paramount in any course—this is especially true at a distance where even incidental contact is absent. Good communication correlates strongly with positive student feedback. The materials and content in your course could be entirely mute if students don’t know fully how you expect they interact with them. Clearly communicating course workload, due dates, etc. go a long way. You want when and how you communicate with students to be authentic to you and your course. Much as you want the materials and activities of a course to align with your course objectives, you want how you communicate to align with you.

Additional Resources

Exam Wrappers

An exam wrapper is a way for students to reflect on their experience on an exam. It is meant for learners to look again at the techniques they use to get ready for an exam, identify strategies they can use to prepare for later assessments, and consider how similar strategies might help them in their studies in and beyond your course.

Sometimes also called “exam debriefs,” these follow-up reflection activities are often called “exam wrappers” because they serve as a wrap-up for the work done on an exam. They’re also meant for students to further articulate context and relevance for what the exam covered—’wrapping’ some additional meaning around the work they’ve done.

Exam wrappers largely attempt to get at (and point students toward reflecting on) the following:

  • The amount of time and effort put into studying
  • Study habits used
  • Whether students engage with course objectives (especially to direct their studying)
  • Reasons students lose or believe they lose points (whether they missed foundational knowledge, made “silly mistakes,” environmental factors and distraction, etc.)
  • Possible interventions or adjustments

How you implement an exam wrapper is up to you. Some possible strategies include:

  • An exam wrapper counting for an improvement of one half letter grade (from BC to B, for example) on the exam.
  • Requiring students complete a wrapper to turn in alongside corrections for full or partial credit on missed questions.
  • Pairing an exam wrapper with instructor- or TA-led review sessions for later exams. Note: If you go this route, it’s still a good idea to have students complete the wrapper activity shortly after receiving feedback on the exam they’re reviewing so it and their study habits are fresh in their minds.
  • Offering the exam wrapper as ‘makeup’ work for one or more formative activities which led up to the exam.
  • Offering course-level extra credit.
  • Some combination of any or all of these!

As students complete the survey/worksheet, encourage them to think about their answers as they go. A few examples:

  • The question about techniques lists good techniques for studying. Could you adopt one or more of these?
  • There is a question about how you use the learning objectives in the course. You might not yet, but doing so is a good way to get to know why we are doing what we are in this course—including why exam questions are what they are.
  • You’re also asked why you think you lost points on the exam. For the more frequent reasons, what adjustments might you make to avoid these in the future? Do you need to study differently or maybe just slow down when taking the exam?

The last few questions in the examples provides below ask students to articulate responses to these sorts of reflections.

If you are interested in trying out an exam wrapper, you can take a look at an Example Exam Wrapper Assignment here. If you’d like a copy of the survey used in this example, you can download this Exam_Wrapper QSF File (Click to Download) and import it into your Qualtrics account (click for instructions). (Note: you do not want to re-use the link in the sample assignment since you will not be able to access the results.) The same assignment is available here in Word document format (Click to Download) if you prefer.

Additional examples of exam wrappers for various disciplines can be found on Carnegie Mellon University’s Eberly Center page on Exam Wrappers.

For further reading, see:

  • Badir, A. et al. 2018. “Exam Wrappers, Reflection, and Student Performance in Engineering Mechanics.” 2018 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Salt Lake City, Utah. https://peer.asee.org/30462
  • Gizem Gezer-Templeton, et al. 2017. “Use of Exam Wrappers to Enhance Students’ Metacognitive Skills in a Large Introductory Food Science and Human Nutrition Course.” Research in Food Science Education 16(1): 28-36. https://doi.org/10.1111/1541-4329.12103
  • Pate, A. et al. 2019. “The use of exam wrappers to promote metacognition.” Currents in Pharmacy Teaching and Learning 11(5): 492-8. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.cptl.2019.02.008